Who Can Bring a Claim for a Wrongful Death Suit in California?

Suddenly losing a close friend can be as traumatic as losing a family member. If such a tragedy befalls you, you will suffer the same grief and emotional turmoil as those who lose family members experience. Despite this, California does not give you any legal right to compensation for your suffering and anguish.

In California, a wrongful death lawsuit is how family members can receive compensation following a loved one’s death due to negligence. But California law restricts who can file a wrongful death suit, which means that even the decedent’s closest friends may not have any legal recourse.

Definition of Legal Standing

In any lawsuit, a plaintiff’s standing is an important consideration. Standing refers to the legal ability of the plaintiff to bring the suit before the court. A plaintiff who lacks standing cannot win a lawsuit and will have any case they bring dismissed.

In some situations, statutes explicitly define who has standing and who doesn’t. This is the case for close friends of a decedent who want to file a wrongful death lawsuit: The law does not grant close friends standing.

Individuals with Standing in California Wrongful Death Cases

If close friends of a decedent cannot bring a wrongful death suit, then who can? California limits the people who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit to those most closely related to the deceased. This list includes:

The Decedent’s Spouse

The primary person eligible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit is the decedent’s spouse, if they are still living. As long as the deceased and their spouse were legally married at the time of the death, the spouse would be eligible to file a lawsuit. 

This rule applies even if the deceased and their spouse have initiated divorce proceedings. If a court did not grant the divorce before the decedent’s death, the spouse would still be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

The Decedent’s Children and Grandchildren

If the decedent passes but does not have a living spouse, then any living children can file a wrongful death suit. If the decedent’s children are minors, then an adult will be appointed to appear in court and act as their representative.

If an adult child of the decedent died before the decedent, then any grandchildren of the decedent through that child can bring a wrongful death suit. Again, if the grandchild is a minor, the court will appoint an adult to represent the child in court.

Those Entitled to Intestate Succession and Financially Dependent Persons

If the decedent has no surviving spouse or children, the next family members who can file a wrongful death lawsuit would be the decedent’s parents. Also, any other person who would receive any of the decedent’s assets according to California’s laws concerning intestate succession would also have a right to file a suit.

Lastly, any person who can prove they were financially dependent on the decedent for support may have the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit and recover compensation.

How a California Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help Your Case

If a family member or loved one has passed away due to another’s carelessness, a wrongful death lawsuit could provide you with much-needed financial compensation. To find out more, contact Saeedian Law Group, your Los Angeles personal injury law firm. 

We will consider your relationship with your deceased loved one and advise whether the law permits you to file a wrongful death claim. If so, we can help you pursue compensation for funeral expenses, lost wages, and other damages to which you are entitled.